Environmentally Friendly Heating and Cooling Options

By avery_dietzen on 01/08/2021

Photo by Frederico Respini

Electricity is primarily generated using fossil fuels. This produces high amounts of greenhouse gases that negatively impact the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency stated that in 2018, 26.9% of the greenhouse gases given off in the United States were due to electricity, the second largest amount behind only transportation.

Not using electricity isn’t exactly an option these days. However, you can help protect the environment by using products that consume less electrical energy. These products can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide the added benefit of reducing your energy bill.

How do you get an eco-friendly heating and cooling system?

Environmentally friendly heating systems rely more on alternative, renewable energy options instead of electricity or fossil fuels.

Here are a few environmentally friendly ways to keep the temperature in your home how you like it:

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps function by transferring heat energy from one area to another. They do not generate heat by themselves, instead exchanging heat from outside to inside or vice versa, even in winter.

Because heat pumps exchange heat rather than generate it, they offer an energy efficient heating alternative.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps function using indoor and outdoor units comprised of a system of coils, refrigerant, and condensers to transfer air. They can work alongside air handlers or as part of a system to heat or cool an area.

When in heating mode, air source heat pumps extract air from outside. A liquid refrigerant absorbs the heat energy from the air as it evaporates into a gas. The gas carries that heat to the indoor coil, which compresses it, allowing the refrigerant to liquify and release the heat. This process reverses when cooling.

Pros

Cons

  • Energy savings
  • Low carbon footprint
  • Low maintenance
  • Can heat and cool
  • Works in cold weather
  • Performance issues (low airflow, incorrect refrigerant charge)
  • Efficiency can fall when temperature drop below freezing

Ground-Source Heat Pumps

Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps function similarly to air source heat pumps with one major difference. Instead of using air as the mode to exchange heat energy, geothermal heat pumps use the ground.

Geothermal heat pumps use ground loops to exchange heat energy underground. They extract heat from the ground when heating and deposit heat energy back into the ground when cooling.

A few feet below the frost layer, the ground holds a temperature between 45-70 degrees (give or take a few degrees depending on your location). The ground remains at or near the same temperature year-round, regardless of the temperature on the surface.

Because of this, ground-source heat pumps have an easier time extracting heat in the wintertime than air source heat pumps. In turn, they don’t have to work as hard and can remain energy efficient.

Pros

Cons

  • High energy efficiency
  • Quiet
  • Require little maintenance
  • Can reduce energy use by 30-60%
  • Do not depend on the air temperature outdoors
  • High initial costs
  • Requires a large area of land to operate ground loops

 

Solar

Solar energy remains one of the most energy efficient alternatives to electricity. Instead of relying on electricity or natural gas to heat an area, these systems harness solar thermal energy and repurpose it to heat or cool a home or building.

Active Solar Heating

Solar heating systems consist of three main elements: the solar collector, distribution system, and a storage system.

Active solar heating collects solar energy and then, using air or a liquid, such as water or non-toxic glycol, transfers the heat into the room. Depending on if the system uses air or liquid-based solutions, they may distribute heat with central forced-air, hydronic baseboards, or radiant floor heating systems.

Pros

Cons

  • Return on investment possible in 3-6 years
  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Some states offer tax credits, deductions, or exemptions
  • Can also heat water
  • Reduce fuel bills
  • Not recommended to fully replace a heating system
  • Can be unreliable depending on the time of day or weather

Solar Cooling

You can also cool a building using solar power! A few different systems exist that utilize solar energy to provide cool air: desiccant, absorption chiller, or hybrid technology.

Desiccant: A desiccant, or moisture absorbing drying agent, pulls moisture from the air. This removes humidity from the air and cools down the room.

Absorption Chiller: They use changes in pressure and a sorption process. Using solar energy, some absorption chillers can chill a room without using electricity.

Hybrid: Hybrid solar air conditioners rely on both solar power and either electricity or a battery backup. For systems that use battery backups, the battery charges using alternating current.

Pros

Cons

  • Reduces electricity use
  • Lowers demand on the grid
  • High initial costs
  • Certain solar cooling systems may not work in all regions

 

If you’re looking for ways to become more energy-conscious and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, switching to an environmentally friendly heating and cooling system is a good place to start.

You can find a selection of geothermal heat pumps and condensers at HomElectrical!

 

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